I devoured this book. You can see how grubby my copy is (after just one week) in the picture.
I loved its simple, unembroidered, almost cold language versus its complex, emotional story about people spiraling into darkness.
"The Vegetarian" starts as a simple husband-wife story set in South Korea. But quickly the events flip the story into something violent and dark. People trapped in social , traditional predicaments trying to escape their lifes as they know them.
Yeong-hye , after haunted by terrible nightmares, decides to become a vegetarian (a vegan really, as she doesnt eat any meat, dairy or eggs) and reject human brutality. A big step to take in South Korea and very much frowned upon. She doesn´t discuss why she stops eating meat, she just declares " I had a dream".
This is the first independen self serving decision Yeon-hye has made in a very long time. As she physically and intellectually transforms herself into a new, powerful and emotionally removed being, her husband and close family cannot accept her decision and Yeong-hyes new found independence. Everybody is shocked by her strange behavior and the fact that she does not obey her husband.
Yeong-hye spirals into fantasies and nightmares that make it impossible for her to sleep at all, her husband, feeling alienated and estranged, decides to take what she denies him. He basically rapes her from now on, feeling guilty but not guilty. This is where the story has one of its darkes peaks.
A family gathering culminates in Yeong-hyes own father trying to force feed her meat and Yeong-hye cutting her wrists. From here on the family is falling apart, everybody is frazzled and in shock. Very little compassion is shown for the victim of abuse, Yeong-hye, but family members are unsettled by her fathers violence towards. Embarrassement is expressed towards the husband.
The story is told from different perspectives. Yeong-hyes husband, her brother in law, an artist, who develops an insane sexual longing for Yeong-hye, and her older sister.
The novel is raw , dark and violent but full of surprising tenderness and astonoshing little details. Perfect for cold nights and long mornings in bed.
Comments? Thoughts about this article? Let's talk about it on Twitter!